Global wind energy capacity grew by almost 29% in 2008, even higher than the average over the past decade, to reach total global installations of close to 121 GW at the end of 2008. Over 27 GW of new wind power generation capacity came online in 2008, 36% more than in 2007, dominated by the three main markets in Europe, North America and Asia.
“These figures speak for themselves: there is huge and growing global demand for emissions-free wind power…,” says Steve Sawyer, Secretary General of GWEC. “The 120 GW of global wind capacity in place at the end of 2008 will produce 260 TWh.”
The global wind market for turbine installations in 2008 was worth about €36.5 billion.
“Wind power is often the most attractive option for new power generation in both economic terms and in terms of increasing energy security, not to mention the environmental and economic development benefits,” says GWEC’s Chairman, Prof. Arthouros Zervos. “The wind industry also creates many new jobs: over 400,000 people are now employed in this industry, and that number will be in the millions in the near future.”
USA and China lead
The leading markets in terms of new installed capacity in 2008 were USA and China. New US wind energy installations totalled 8.4 GW. With a total installed capacity of 25 GW, the USA has now officially overtaken Germany (24 GW) as number one in wind power.
The massive growth in the US wind market in 2008 increased the nation’s total wind power generating capacity by 50%. The new wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42% of the entire new power-producing capacity added in the USA last year, and created 35,000 new jobs, for a total of 85,000 employed in the sector in the US. At year’s end, however, financing for new projects and new orders for turbines and components slowed to a trickle as the financial crisis began to hit the wind sector.
The growth in Asia’s markets has also been breathtaking; close to a third of all new capacity in 2008 was installed on the Asian continent. In particular, the wind energy boom is continuing in China, which once again doubled its installed capacity by adding about 6.3 GW, reaching a total of over 12 GW.
In its response to the financial crisis, the Chinese government has identified the development of wind energy as one of the key economic growth areas.
In Europe, almost 8.9 GW worth of new wind turbines brought the total generation capacity up to nearly 66 GW. This makes wind power the leading power source for new generation capacity, according to the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). While in the past, European growth was primarily spurred by the established markets in Germany, Spain and Denmark, 2008 saw a much more balanced expansion, led by France, the UK and Italy.